“Hey, I’m a sweet guy!" says director Shyamaprasad, eliciting a laugh of disbelief from us.
Disbelief because ‘sweet’ is not a term that we ever thought we’d associate with Shyamaprasad or a Shyamaprasad film, even though Hey Jude was termed as such by Tamil actor Trisha Krishnan, his heroine!
With 13 films to his credit, over the past three decades, the National Award-winning filmmaker is known for an oeuvre that delves deep into the intricacies of human bonding, most often dark tales peopled with characters that are never simply black or white; films such as Ivide (2015), Artist (2013), English (2012), Ritu (2009), Ore Kadal (2007), Agnisakshi (1999) and the like.
Shyamaprasad, never a conformist, has an increasingly contemporary approach to filmmaking. In the words of Ajayan Venugopalan, the scenarist of Ivide and English, he “prefers to invest his time and effort on his characters, their growth and their relationships than in the technicalities of filmmaking.” So, it really shouldn’t be surprising that Hey Jude, starring Nivin Pauly and Trisha in the lead, is a breezy entertainer that explores the relationship between two non-conformists - a hero with Asperger’s syndrome and a heroine with bipolar disorder, albeit in a very Shyamaprasad way.
The film has all the makings of a hit and the director is in a jovial mood when we call him up for an interview.
Excerpts from the interview:
The light-heartedness of Hey Jude, threw us a bit...
(Laughs) The audience tends to be a bit prejudiced when it comes to slotting my films into a genre. I think Arike (2012) is a sweet film as well. But that’s just me. Hey Jude is sweet because the story (by newbies Nirmal Sahadev and George Kannat) demanded it to be told as a rom-com, with lots of humour and music, even though it deals with a dark subject.
This is your third film with Nivin (English, Ivide and Hey Jude). What's the equation there?
He’s an actor that I like, both as a person and as a professional. Over the years we’ve developed a close bond. He is, I feel, someone who can identify with the youth of today and is an icon of today’s generation.
Moreover, Nivin as an actor is one who is not afraid to push boundaries and is as keen about exploring and fleshing out characters as I am.
Your casting is unpredictable, yet intriguing. Like Nivin's character with grey shades and Prithviraj's Varun Blake, the anglicised Malayali for instance.
It’s purely based on the subject. Getting Trisha on board for Hey Jude, for example, was a coup of sorts but the role demanded a modern young woman, who does not have much command over Malayalam and I thought that she gave a brilliant performance as the bubbly Crys.
I’ve been fortunate that all my heroes/heroines thus far have been played by fabulous actors. All I really needed to do was help them understand the characters and the situations the characters go through. I hold their hands a bit and allow them to explore.
Jude, like most of your characters, is multifaceted…
Well, human dreams are multifaceted and so are my characters. I’m not interested in typical heroes and heroines, in stereotypes. That, I feel, is both my strength and my weakness as a director.
Being one of the few established directors, is it a challenge, to constantly think contemporary, be it in genres, themes, or storytelling style?
I don’t like to rest on past glories and values. I am willing to understand and move with the times. And that’s not only regarding my craft but my very outlook on life. It’s part of my nature, really, an automatic process. I find happiness in keeping abreast with the latest in technology, storytelling, style of filmmaking and so on.
I think it’s very important to be current because modern audiences expect that. For example, if you are making a film on the struggle for Independence, you have to approach it with present day sensibilities and I don’t mean making it fashionable. As a director, one needs to think how one can renew the subject and present it in a fresh way by looking both inwardly and outwardly.
Agnisakshi was an examination of patriarchy; Ore Kadal talked about extramarital relationships; English delved into the loneliness of expatriate life, Artist explored contrasts between selfishness and selflessness, Ivide was a crime drama. Each of your subjects are strikingly different. How do you choose your stories?
I choose stories that fascinate me, stories that I come across in publications and books or when interacting with people or watching people. I am constantly looking for good themes for my films. The idea for Hey Jude, for instance, came while I was chilling out at Beatles, a café by the beach in Kovalam, Thiruvananthapuram. Being a music fan, ‘Hey Jude,’ a favourite number by the Beatles band, played through my mind and I thought that I should make a movie on a guy called Jude.
Then, the character and story were given a definite structure and style during my interactions with Nirmal, a United States-based filmmaker and writer (the director of upcoming Prithviraj-starrer Detroit Crossing), who was an associate director on the set of Ivide, which was set in Atlanta. I like to be a part of the scriptwriting process and am very acutely involved in fleshing out the characters and their relationships.
You like delving into the complexities of relationships. What is it that fascinates you about their interplay?
I think relationships are the crux of any and all art forms. Art is a mirror for interpersonal relationships and introspection as well. I can’t just write a poem or story of a tree, for example, without exploring its relationship to humans, society, to the self. Any director worth his salt should examine the interplay. Admittedly, I go in a bit deeper.
Interesting also how you cherry-pick newcomers - Nirmal, Ajayan, writer Joshua Newtonn (Ritu and 'Off Season’- Kerala Café), cinematographer Gireesh Gangadharan (Hey Jude), and musician Shankar Tucker (English).
I’m a great admirer of their talents, more than anything else. Most of them have had remarkable achievements before I signed them on. I thought Ajayan’s comedy web series Akkarakazhchakal was brilliant. He has a great mind and a flair for comedy.
Gireesh spectacularly filmed Angamaly Diaries. Nirmal is a meticulous writer and filmmaker… They are all good friends of mine, which slowly turned into good professional relationships.
I am working on a couple of scripts. I usually start work on my next film during the post-production of a film to take my mind off it for a bit. I’m in no rush.
This interview was first published on Fullpicture.in. The News Minute has syndicated the content. You can read the original article here.